A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a 1959 Disney movie in which an elderly man from a small Irish village tries to get three wishes from the king of the leprechauns. While mostly a wholesome and somewhat dated movie (with a young Sean Connery), the drinking will be of concern for some. In one scene, Darby and King Brian engage in an epic whiskey drinking contest, trading drinks of whiskey and witty verse until King Brian is unable to move. A pub fight between two rivals breaks out, with fists and broken bottles. Darby's fanciful stories take place in the village pub, where pub-goers drink stout and whiskey, and some in the background smoke pipes. A character offers another a pinch of snuff. Some scenes of a banshee, and of a death coach, may be a bit much for younger and more sensitive viewers, as well as a scene in which one of the characters threatens to throw another into the water "like a kitten."
- Parents say
- Kids say
My brother and I watched it when we where 5 and 6 and we liked it (though some children that age may find it b... Continue reading
What's the story?
Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) loses his job to a younger man (Sean Connery). On his way home to tell his daughter Katie (Janet Munro), he ends up in an underground leprechaun kingdom. Although he's told that he can't leave the kingdom, Darby escapes, followed by King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea). Brian ends up becoming Darby's property, and Darby demands Brian grant him three wishes and he'll let him go.
Is it any good?
The media has used leprechauns as cereal salesmen and serial killers, but Disney and director Robert Stevenson effectively captured their mischievous charm and integral place in Irish tradition. Central elements are a multilayered story (based on works by H.T. Kavanagh), skillful use of special effects photography, and a capable, winning cast. Darby himself is a character as colorful as his own tales and well-matched by King Brian, who manages to avoid stereotype while proving his fondness for Darby, both as a worthy adversary and fast friend.
The film offers a rich blend of atmospheric otherworldliness (in the mists of the fairy mountain, Knocknasheega, where pookas reign) and earthy realism (in the rustic sets, rousing music, and authentically craggy faces). In his youthful glory, Sean Connery shines (and sings!) in his scenes with the adorable Janet Munro. She's spunky and modern, inviting him to a dance and initiating their first kiss. Their bumpy romance adds a warm dimension. Kids and even adults may stumble over some of the Irish accents, but these enhance the flavor and obscure nothing essential. From the same Disney era that produced the favorite Old Yeller, Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a classic in its own right.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. What do the characters learn?
How does the movie convey Irish wit and culture? Does it seem like a positive reflection, or does it seem stereotyped? Why?
In what ways does Katie seem like a strong female lead character, particularly for a movie from the 1950s?
- In theaters: May 21, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 1996
- Cast: Janet Munro, Jimmy O'Dea, Sean Connery
- Director: Robert Stevenson
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: children's themes
- Last updated: February 15, 2021
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